Tipperary’s Kilcooley Estate Owner Identified

KilcooleylThe historic Kilcooley Estate, near  Gortnahoe, Thurles, Co Tipperary, on the Tipperary/Kilkenny border which had previously been sold in 2008 by the Ponsonby family to the McCann family company of ‘Castleway International,’ for a reported €6 million, has once again found a new owner.

A 62 year old Newry multi-millionaire businessman and energy exploration entrepreneur of some 40 years, Mr Tommy (Tom) O’Gorman, who has global oil and gas interests, as well as being involved with Blarney Golf Resort, Cove Energy, Fastnet Oil and Gas, confirmed yesterday that he was now the new title holder.

Mr O’Gorman purchased the estate in late 2013 via Mr Marcus Magneir of Colliers for a reported €2.1m. The estate, including an important 18th century mansion, was offered for sale, via NAMA, by Colliers in 2013 and then included 1,200 acres with 950 acres leased to the Irish state-sponsored company ‘Coillte,’ mature woodland, 220 acres leased to local farmers, together with five estate staff houses, extensive courtyard buildings, a lake, boathouse and a Chapel and old Cistercian Abbey, latter which is a popular tourist attraction and continues to hold religious services.

Mr O’Gorman has also purchased, for a reported €1.5m, the freehold on the aforementioned 950 acres of forestry leased to Coillte, for which he states he has already had approaches from timber producers to purchase much of the associated forestry. Land leased to Coillte had a legal stipulation that it be returned to a proper agricultural state when the 150 year lease expired sometime in the 2080’s.

This lease is now ended after Mr O’Gorman’s €1.5m deal with Coillte and he believes the value of the land and forestry has now greatly multiplied in value, rising possibly to as much as €10 million, following his €3.6 million overall investment.

It is understood that when approached, the Irish State had declined to buy the Kilcooley estate in the early 2000’s, which today remains a national monument of great interest and which was home to the Ponsonby family since c. 1770.


27 comments to Tipperary’s Kilcooley Estate Owner Identified

  • Laurence

    It has to be said that the previous owners were guilty of cutting down ancient Oak Trees on the site, They were protected trees. Very disappointed with the derelict state of the house and adjoining properties.

  • Katie.

    Laurence. Look out for the demolition trucks. Read in between the lines.

  • Merelina Ponsonby

    I used to stay with my uncle there in the late 60’s. We used to boat on the lake and go round the ruins of the abbey. My father, the eldest brother had no interest in the house.

  • George Willoughby

    Hi Merelina,
    Nice to hear from you. The house, when in its prime, must have been the ‘Downton Abbey’ of the area. Such a pity that now all this history may be lost for future generations. One can only hope that the new owner realises that there are “no pockets in a shrowd,” and restores the building in some way to its former glory. Keep in touch.

  • George Willoughby

    Hi Katie, I do so hope you are wrong, it would be a crime against the people of Tipperary.

  • Yvonne Harrington

    Is there nothing sacred. These forests will be lost to the Nation forever. These people see the land as there for the taking and have no care for anything but money.

  • Mred

    Is this sale detailed on Nama’s website for 700,000?

  • George Willoughby

    I cannot confirm Mred but I also cannot understand how an outside speculator can purchase a property quietly from NAMA at a give away price, and then auction off same purchase publicly doubling profits. NAMA originally acquired this property paid for by the Irish people. Profits therefore should accrue to the Irish people. I thought that any sale by state-sponsored Coillte, was to be halted and reviewed, but what do I know? This sale appears to have been poorly costed. I would love for someone to explain this transaction publicly to the Irish People, thus removing the many doubts held locally.

  • RNolan

    Last year myself and a couple of friends used to meet at 06.45 week mornings for a walk around the woods before work. It was the highlight of my day, to hear the birds singing, see the deer and rabbits crossing the paths throughout the woods was awsome and the smell of the trees, it was a great way to start the day. Unfortunately, we can no longer even park there now to go walking, such a pity. It will be missed by all the locals who use it for walking.

  • Mred

    It is quiet disturbing what has been allowed to happen here. I would urge all who are interested to contact The Forestry board to request information on why people are being stopped from being able to access walks around the estate as this would have been a right in law. Coillte would have to provide this information under freedom of information Act and the data protection act.

    There are also environmental issues associated to the cutting down of these trees and the change of use of this land.

    I would be interested to know what price this estate has been registered with the land registestry at. The PSRA have registered the sale at 700,000 euros, however, when questioned about this they are now saying the purchasers have given them the wrong price and it is to be amended. It all appears quite strange to me I would have assumed that the property registry would take its figures from the land registry but it seems they rely on the purchasers to tell them what the property has been purchased for.

  • Orla

    Would Minister for forestry Tom Hayes be able to shed any light on the sale of the lease of this public amenity. Should the sale of the lease not have gone to Public Tender?

  • Brian Jones

    Was the total 2.1 million including the freehold land leased to Coillte? The article is not very clear on this. Maybe that’s why they initially tried to register as just 700,000 euro for the house and associated properties. No capital gains tax applies anyway as long as purchased before end of 2014.

    I agree that there are issues of right of way that need to be addressed and NAMA is a joke of an agency, being so non-transparent who knows what goes on.

  • Brian Jones

    After checking the property price register, it still only mentions dwelling (and doesn’t even mention multiple dwellings etc) and 700,000 euro purchase of such. Not been updated. No info about any land holdings.

  • Mred

    Coillte’s breaches of FSC principles
    22 August 2006
    PRINCIPLE #1: Compliance with laws and FSC Principles
    Criteria 1.1 and 1.5
    1. Coillte have been in court on several occasions for breaches of Irish Law – including illegal felling and illegal dumping – since 2001. They have also been issued with warning letters for illegal activities. For example, in December 2005, Coillte were issued with warning letters by Roscommon County Council regarding the illegal dumping of waste from the demolition of the old visitors centre at Lough Key Forest Park, County Roscommon. The construction waste was dumped in the forest at Lough Key [1]. Other illegal activities were reported in [2, 3, 4, 5].
    2. Despite the January 24, 2005 settlement of an Irish High Court case in respect of Coillte’s failure to provide information that had been requested under Statutory Instrument 125 of 1998 European Communities Act 1972 (Access to Information on the Environment) Regulations 1998 (“S.I. 125/98”) in which Coillte Teoranta voluntarily agreed to be bound by the Directive and its Irish implementing Regulations, Coillte failed to respond to a request for information dated April 25, 2006, which cited the E.U. Directive 90/313/EEC and the Access to Information on the Environment Regulations, 1993 (S.I. No. 133 of 1993) [6]. Coillte demonstrated a lack of respect for both the Irish High Court’s decision and for the EU regulation.
    3. Even though Coillte were formed as part of State legislation, they have, since their formation on the 1st January 1989, purported to be a private legal entity. However, the European Courts have ruled that Coillte Teoranta is not a private company, it is a State body [7]: “In the present case, Ireland itself has stated that Coillte Teoranta is and always has been a public undertaking wholly owned by the State…Neither the company’s obligation to manage its affairs on a commercial basis nor the fact, alleged by Ireland, that the State does not, in practice, intervene in the company’s management can prevail over the finding that the company is wholly owned and controlled by the State and that the State could therefore intervene. It follows that Coillte Teoranta is not private-law legal person for the purposes of Article 2(2)(b) of Regulation No 2080/92.” Despite this ruling from the European Courts, Coillte have continued to operate as a private company. In June 2005, the Freedom of Information Commissioner, Ms. Emily O’Reilly, was told by Coillte that Coillte were a private company. Ms. O’Reilly described Coillte’s conduct as “particularly egregious” as Coillte “provided [Ms. O’Reilly] with an incomplete description of its legal status” and their “submission [made] no mention whatsoever of the binding judgement of the European Court of Justice in which Coillte’s view of its status as a private company was rejected.” [8]
    Criteria 1.3
    1. Coillte claimed EU grants under the Council Regulation (EEC) N° 2080/92, which was earmarked for farmers and private growers. Coillte were involved in this major legal dispute, with serious financial implications, with the European Commission, over the use of the EU grant money. Coillte had drawn down EU grants, to whom payments were made through Coillte’s Farm Partnership Scheme. In 1999, the Agricultural Directorate of the European Commission decided that the scheme was not eligible for grants and stopped further payments. In September 2000, it was ruled that 3.8 million Irish punts (€4.8m) in grants already paid would be clawed back, and that more than 30 million punts (€38.1m) due in premium payments to Coillte up to 2013 would not be paid. The EC ruling was to be appealed by the Irish Government, and the appeal was overturned in 2003, but these problems appear to have been completely overlooked by both SGS and Soil Association/Woodmark [7]. This is the same case in which the EC ruled that Coillte are a public entity.
    2. Ireland was condemned by the European Commission in 1999 for not having adequate rules to assess new forestry projects [9]. There is evidence of damage to important habitats and water pollution. Irish rules were subsequently changed and the European Commission therefore closed the case. However, the new rules are not always applied correctly so a new case has been opened by the European Commission [10].
    3. In 2005, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) condemned Ireland for not having an authorisation system of aerial spraying of forestry plantations with fertilizer in accordance with Directive 76/464/EEC (dangerous substances). Much new forestry is in areas where soil and water are naturally low in nutrients. Aerial spraying can harm the ecology of these areas. The matter has not since been resolved and, in April 2006, the Commission sent Ireland a first warning for not complying with the judgment. [11]
    4. A further case in respect of which a Reasoned Opinion (final written warning) was sent this summer by the European Commission inter alia arguing that clearfelling and replanting is not properly controlled under the Habitats Directive, 92/43/EEC, in ecologically sensitive water catchments, notably those hosting the Freshwater Pearl Mussel. Ireland’s Heritage Council recently issued a press release warning that this species faced extinction in Ireland. Forestry is one of the main threats, in particular clear-felling and replanting (typically Coillte activities). While there is a limited moratorium with regard to afforestation of deep-peat soils and while work on new safeguards is going on, until now there is no evidence of proper controls being exercised by Coillte. In 2004, there were mortalities of the Pearl Mussel on the Owenriff River in County Galway: upstream clear-felling was implicated although the Irish authorities have yet to produce any formal findings [12]
    Criteria 1.6
    1. Coillte claimed to the Irish Freedom of Information Commissioner that the land that they manage is private land. They stated, in a letter to the Freedom of Information Commissioner that “the lands owned by the company are, in law, private property and the transaction which is the subject of the request is a private law transaction between two entities neither of which is subject to the Freedom of Information Acts.” [1.13] When Coillte was initially certified, their lands were described as ‘public’ [14]. The most recent report by Soil Association on Coillte’s certification states that the “perception [is] that land is “owned” by the people” [15] i.e public land. Therefore, Coillte’s description of their as private property is contradictory to their FSC certificate.
    2. Coillte’s activities have brought FSC into disrepute. One person, representing several communities stated that “Since our first complaint in 2001 local people have given up and despaired of any ethical behaviour or adherence by Coillte to FSC principles of consultation. Our local community group has started off enthusiastically in the spirit and belief of public participation and we have ended in regarding the FSC logo as a tool of salesmanship without any meaning. Nobody is interested anymore in wasting time with make-believe-complaint-procedures.” [16]
    1. FOI request by Ms. Christine Raab-Heine – list of documents
    2. The Corkman Newspaper, June 19 ‘03 – “Dump accused could face ten years” Irish Times, June 18 ‘03 – “Circuit Court to hear dump case” 3. Forest Network Newsletter No. 121, November 12 ‘03 – “Coillte convicted for illegal felling again” 4. Irish Times, May 16 ‘03 – “Coillte fined €5,580 for felling trees without a licence” 5. Irish Times, August 11 ‘01
    6. AIE request FOI/05/185 – Debra James to Dept. of Agriculture and Food re: lands at Cumerduff and Loggan Upper
    7. Case C-339/00, Ireland v. Commission of the European Communities (2003)
    8. FOI Case 040275 – Mr. Martin Collins and the Department of Communications, Marine & Natural Resources 9. Case C-392/96, Commission of the European Communities v. Ireland (1999)
    10. Case C-418/04, Commission of the European Communities v. Ireland (Pending)
    11. Case C-282/02, Commission of the European Communities v. Ireland (2005)
    12. Communication from Liam Cashman, European Commissioner, 20th July 2006
    13. FOI Case 040275 – Mr. Martin Collins and the Department of Communications, Marine & Natural Resources 14. SGS Qualifor Main Assessment Report of Coillte Teoranta, April 2000 15. Soil Association/Woodmark Forest Certification Public Report – Coillte Teoranta, May 24 ‘06 16. Complaint from Monica Muller about Coillte to the Soil Association UK (FSC auditor of Coillte), July 30 ‘04 PRINCIPLE #2: Tenure and use rights and responsibilities
    Criteria 2.1
    1. Coillte have claimed that the land they manage is private property [1]. However, Coillte is certified under the modus that Coillte manage ‘public lands’ [2, 3]. Therefore, Coillte themselves have cast confusion over under what circumstances they have use rights to the lands passed to their control in the 1988 Forestry Act.
    2. On the formation of Coillte Teoranta in 1999, land was transferred by the state to the control of Coillte. However, much of this land was previously transferred as a gift to the state, with environmental or social burdens attached – such as the woods at Monivea, Co. Galway, and Saleen, Co. Cork. There is no public place where these burdens on some of Coillte’s forests can be viewed. Monivea, for example, was transferred by Lady Kathleen Ffrench to the people of Monivea, with the burden that the trees remained until they “rot in the ground”. Coillte sought to develop much of this woodland, and it was only that An Bord Pleanala (The Irish Planning Appeals Board) refused them permission that they didn’t. This showed a lack of regard for the burden placed on the Monivea wood when Lady Ffrench gifted it to the nation.
    Criteria 2.2
    1. In 1938, Lady Kathleen Ffrench left Monivea Forest to the people of Monivea and the nation in 1938, stating that the woodland be left “until the trees rot in the ground”. In February 2005, An Bord Pleanala overturned attempts by Coillte to develop the woodland. Coillte had sought permission for 120 retirement homes, a community care centre, a nursing home, an 80-bedroom hotel and leisure centre [4]. The woodland was and still is used by locals as an amenity, and a petition was circulated prior to the An Bord Pleanala decision in which the vast majority of local people opposed the development. No consent was ever given by the people of Monivea for Coillte to manage and develop the woodland.
    2. In 2005, it came to the attention of the Woodland League that Coillte intended to develop Saleen wood. Local people that used the wood regularly opposed this, and the Save Saleen Wood Campaign was organised, and a petition was circulated opposing the proposed development.
    3. In 2006, permission was denied by An Bord Pleanala for the development of Lough Key Forest Park. It was proposed to develop this amenity as a private enterprise. The development would have consisted of a 100 bedroom 3-storey hotel, 277 holiday homes, and an 18-hole 72-par golf course as well as all the facilities and amenities, such as parking, tennis courts, etc. The park is under the management of Coillte, and the development was stopped on the foot of objection from An Taisce (Irish National Trust) and Cavan-Leitrim Environmental Awareness Network. There is well documented evidence that the park is and continues to be used by locals and non-locals as an amenity.
    4. Recent consultation on Coillte’s management plan for Clare/South Galway consisted of the plans being available to the public for inspection for one day in Scarriff, County Clare, and for one day in Gort, County Galway. This gave the public very limited opportunity to view the plans and formulate comments. This is a general modus operandi for consultations on Coillte’s Forest Management Plans
    1. FOI Case 040275 – Mr. Martin Collins and the Department of Communications, Marine & Natural Resources 2. SGS Qualifor Main Assessment Report of Coillte Teoranta, April 2000 3. Soil Association/Woodmark Forest Certification Public Report – Coillte Teoranta, 24th May 2006 4. Irish Times, February 18 2005 – “Setback for Coillte land sale plan” PRINCIPLE #3: Indigenous peoples’ rights
    Criteria 3.1
    1. There is no evidence to suggest that Coillte allows indigenous people in Ireland any control over forestry in their areas. Many disputes arise because Coillte fail to allow local and indigenous people to have input into the management of their forests – e.g. Lough Corrib, Bellanaboy, Saleen, Derrybrien, Loggan Bridge. Coillte’s policy of exclusion of local people in the excision of their lands has led to disputes that have raised national and international concerns – e.g. the sale of land to Shell at Bellanaboy.
    2. Coillte have a poor policy with regard to public consultation on their Forest Management Plans (See points under Criteria 2.2), allowing a minimal length of time for the public to view and make submissions.
    Criteria 3.2
    1. The operations of Coillte in the region of Lough Corrib, Co. Galway, is having serious effects on the livelihoods of the local indigenous people. The lake and rivers are facing a severe decline in water quality due to acidification and eutrophication, which has resulted in a drop in fish numbers. Fishing is directly or indirectly a source of income for many indigenous people in the area.
    Criteria 3.3
    1. There is no pre-afforestation, pre-felling or pre-reforestation archaeological surveys carried out in Coillte’s estate. The total number of archaeological and historical monuments in Coillte’s forests cannot be accurately estimated, and their condition is unknown. The Heritage Council of Ireland recommends pre-planting surveys be carried out to identify archaeological sites [1].
    2. There are several reported cases where monuments have been allowed to degrade while under the control of Coillte, [2] and [3] as examples. [2] describes a call from the Irish Georgian Society for a mausoleum under control of Coillte that has been allowed to degrade to be passed to the IGS’s control. [3] describes in detail the way that Coillte have allowed monuments to degrade in Dartrey Estate, Co. Monaghan.
    Criteria 3.4
    1. In 2005, Green Party councillor Ms. Deirdre DeBurca reported in a Press Release that Coillte made submissions to the Wicklow County Council Committee on Existing Routes to Amenity Areas/Rights of Way stating that they “did not wish to see public rights of way recognised across their lands because of commercial considerations” [4].
    2. Issues with indigenous peoples rights have been recorded in [5] and [6].
    1. Archaeology and Forestry in Ireland, The Heritage Council 2. Sunday Times, July 17 ’05 – “Call For Coillte to Hand Over Mausoleum”
    3. Wicklow Green Party Press Release, June 21 ‘05- “Council must carry out further work on public rights of way says de Burca”
    4. Forest Network Newsletter #101, May 28 ‘03 – “Coillte calls the Guards to prevent breach of peace”
    5. Corkman Newspaper, May 22 ‘03 – “Landowner threatens to seek court injunction in heated forestry row” PRINCIPLE #4: Community relations and worker’s rights
    Criteria 4.1
    1. Coillte contracts out the vast majority of its work regarding felling, afforestation and reforestation. Coillte’s decision on the allocation of harvesting contracts has meant that contractors have had to great distances to harvest timber. Local employment is not a factor in the allocation of contracts.
    Criteria 4.2
    1. In April 2006, the Irish Times and Irish Independent reported of a dispute between Coillte and 450 of its tree planters. This involved a change in methods of application of pesticide. SIPTU, the union representing the workers, claims that there is significant increased risk to the workers. [1, 2].
    2. The uneconomic rates paid by Coillte have led to contractors cutting corners on safety and health just so they can fulfil their financial commitments. Failure to distinguish between turnover and profit has forced individual sub-contractors to ignore The Code of Practice for Managing Safety and Health in Forestry Operations, Employee Welfare Legislation and the Maximum Weight provisions in the Road Traffic Acts just to remain in business. Added to this is the fact that Coillte acted as financial adviser to many timber harvest and haulage contractors in the purchase of modern equipment through the offer of long-term contracts to harvest timber in Irish forests. Contractors have had to, unwittingly, work long hours for the low rates paid by Coillte to meet the repayments on the machinery Coillte advised them to buy. [3].
    Criteria 4.4
    1. In order to find out when or where Coillte intend to fell trees, local people must check their local Garda (Police) Station for felling licenses on a regular, e.g. weekly, basis for felling licenses issued to Coillte. This is the only requirement under the Forestry Act 1946. Coillte do not have any form of proactive advertising or notice of their intention to fell areas, and in general neighbours of the forests that Coillte intend to fell only find out of their intentions when the machines turn up for the felling.
    2. Recent consultation on Coillte’s management plan for Clare/South Galway consisted of the plans being available to the public for inspection for one day in Scarriff, County Clare, and for one day in Gort, County Galway. This gave the public very limited opportunity to view the plans and formulate comments (See also breach in principle 2.2).
    3. Coillte do not necessarily consult with local communities when issues such as felling or conversion of land to non-forest use arise. Examples of such cases are described in [4] and [5].
    Criteria 4.5
    1. In 1993, Coillte were paying the forestry contractors IRL£12 (€15.20) per ton. In 2003, this price was down to €12 per ton. The rates currently paid by Coillte are the same as twenty years ago. EU grants were received by the contractors to purchase new modern equipment. This has been used as an excuse by Coillte to continue to reduce the price-per-ton paid to the contractors. The uneconomic rates paid by Coillte are forcing contractors into bankruptcy. With Coillte’s near-monopoly of the forestry market in Ireland, there is nothing the contractors can do to get better rates from Coillte. Coillte have a “take it or leave it” policy. [6, 7]
    2. The Irish Independent in August 2003 reported that the continually decreasing rates paid by Coillte to forestry contractors were having severely negative impacts on the sector. The Irish Forestry Contractors Association predicted a collapse of the sector [8]. The prices that Coillte are paying for their timber will lead to a collapse in the timber harvest and haulage industry. This will have consequences for the entire forestry industry, as without the contractors, supply to the timber processing plants will run dry. Due to this, the economic future of forestry in Ireland is in doubt.
    3. James Bunyan’s report [6] described the inappropriate allocation of grants to the contractors for the purchase of modern machinery. Coillte were advisors in the allocation of grants. Approximately one third of the applicants received two thirds of the grants.
    4. There are reports of damage done to the walls of an estate by neighbouring Coillte forestry. Lord Waterford’s estate in Co. Waterford has suffered damage from trees growing “right up alongside walls”. It is estimated that the damage is in the region of €11m. [9]
    5. The Gorey Echo reported in March 2006 that Coillte had given access through their forests for a Hudson Concrete Ltd. “super-quarry” at Ballythomas Hill near Gorey. Local people have serious concerns for their health and safety, with the quarry located half a mile from the national school. [10]
    1. Irish Times, April 13 ’06 – “Concerns over tree treatment” 2. Irish Independent, April 13 ’06 – “Workers bugged by insect strategy” 3. Letter from Christy Nolan, Chairman, the Irish Forestry Contractors Association, to Dermot Ahern, TD, August 2003.
    4. Forestry In Ireland: A Citizens Perspective – Case Study: Lough Key Forest Park, Woodland League 5. Forestry In Ireland: A Citizens Perspective – Case Study: Bellanaboy, Woodland League 6. Practices and Procedures In The Timber Raw Material Supply Chain Sector Of Irish Forestry, Report by James J. Bunyan, December 2003
    7. James Bunyan Presentation to Irish Forestry Contractors, various dates in 2003.
    8. Irish Independent, “Forest Contractors ‘Crisis’”, August 05 ’03 9. Irish Times, April 15 2005 – “Hitting a Stone Wall” 10. Gorey Echo, March 22 ’06 – “Ballythomas Quarry Anger”
    PRINCIPLE #5: Benefits from the forest
    Criteria 5.1
    1. Coillte’s uneconomic rates paid to forestry harvest and haulage contractors are forcing individual contractors into bankruptcy [1]. If Coillte continues to drop the price-per-ton paid to contractors, the forestry harvest and haulage sector will collapse [2]. This will cause an economic collapse of the entire forestry sector, as the supply to the timber processing plants will dry up.
    2. Coillte have stated that there is no market for hardwoods that are grown in Ireland [3]. They state that all broadleaves within the Coillte estate are considered environmental and have no economic value. This is despite the fact that Coillte in Dundrum import hardwood from the UK to meet the demand.
    3. In a recent newspaper article [4], Coillte state that their forestry operations are barely economically viable. The Dept. of Finance states in its report [5] essentially that Coillte are unable to grow or maintain their forestry operations in the absence of grant-aid. Coillte’s forestry operations are only viable in conjunction with their land sales.
    Criteria 5.2 & 5.4
    1. Coillte’s decision on the allocation of harvesting contracts has meant that contractors have had to travel great distances to harvest timber. Local employment is not a factor in the allocation of contracts.
    2. Access by local communities is restricted to, at best, recreational access. Local communities are not given the opportunity to access Coillte forestry for the use of non-timber forest products.
    Criteria 5.5
    1. Ireland is in the European Court for the damage done by Coillte to waterways in or near their forests. This has in areas such as the Lough Corrib region, led to a severe decline in fish numbers and water quality.
    1. Letter from Christy Nolan, Chairman, the Irish Forestry Contractors Association, to Dermot Ahern, TD, August 2003.
    2. Irish Independent, “Forest Contractors ‘Crisis’”, August 05 ’03 3. “Economic Analysis of Broadleaf Afforestation”, Henry Philips, Irish Forestry Industry Chain for Coillte Teoranta 4. Irish Times, “Concerns over tree treatment”, April 13 ‘06 5. Budget 2006: Review of Tax Schemes, Dept. of Finance, February ‘06
    PRINCIPLE #6: Environmental Impact
    Criteria 6.2 & 6.3
    1. Lough Corrib is a candidate Special Area of Conservation (cSAC), site code 000297 and is a Natural 2000 site and as such, any activities (whether or not the activity occurs either within or without the site) which adversely impinges on the integrity of the site, is in breach of the Habitats Directive 92143/EEC. The activities of Coillte in the area have led to the decline of the water quality of the lake, due to acidification and eutrophication.
    2. Ireland is in the European Court over the pollution of the Owenriff River, which feeds into Lough Corrib. Cearfelling and replanting are not properly controlled under the Habitats Directive, 92/43/EEC, in ecologically sensitive water catchments, notably those hosting the Freshwater Pearl Mussel. [See principle 1.3]
    Criteria 6.6 & 6.8
    1. In April 2006, the Irish Times and Irish Independent reported of a dispute between Coillte and 450 of its tree planters. This involved a change in methods of application of pesticide. SIPTU, the union representing the workers, claims that there is significant increased risk to the workers. [1, 2].
    Criteria 6.9
    1. There is no evidence that Coillte is controlling its use of exotic species. Coillte currently have over 95% exotic species in their forests [3]. Coillte recently justified this by stating that broadleaves are not economically viable in Ireland [4]. However, Mr. Tony Lowes states that “Coillte in Dundrum is importing hardwoods from UK to fulfil demand” [5]. The economic reasons for not growing broadleaves is unjustified.
    Criteria 6.10
    1. Saleen Creek which starts in Saleen Wood is an SPA (Special Protected Area). Coillte intended to develop the woodland [6]. The development involved the rezoning of 10ha (24 acres) for housing.
    2. There is no evidence that Coillte’s land sales or attempted land sales have been beneficial to the conservation of the Forest Management Unit[s]. Some of the sales and attempted sales are described in [6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]
    1. Irish Times, April 13 ’06 – “Concerns over tree treatment” 2. Irish Independent, April 13 ’06 – “Workers bugged by insect strategy” 3. Coillte Social and Environmental Report, 2005 4. Economic Analysis of Broadleaf Afforestation, Henry Philips, Irish Forestry Industry Chain for Coillte Teoranta 5. Forest Network Newsletter #170, July 24 ‘06 6. Story to Date Of the Save Saleen Wood Campaign, Adrian O’Sullivan, October 15 ‘05
    7. CLEAN appeal against the decision of Roscommon Co. Co. to grant permission to Newfound Consortium to develop Lough Key Forest Park, August 26 ‘05

    8. The Corkman, May 10 ’01 – “Crucial vote on superdump to come on Monday” 10. Derrybrien: The Struggle of a Small Rural Community to have its Voice Heard, Diploma Research Project, Martin Collins, June 2005
    11. Minutes of the Ordinary Meeting of Kerry County Council, March 14 ‘05 regarding the purchase of Coilllte land for the extension of landfill. See also Irish Examiner, March ‘06 2001
    PRINCIPLE #10: Plantations
    Criteria 10.2
    1. Coillte currently plants over 94% exotic species. Less than 6% of Coillte’s forests are native, and much less than this is dedicated to natural forest regeneration/conservation/protection [3].
    2. Photos in the area of Lettercrafroe Lough, Co. Galway, which feeds into the Owenriff river, clearly show felling and replanting on the shores of the Lough and streams that run into the Lough [1].
    3. Forest management has included the sale and development of natural and semi-natural woodlands under the control of Coillte, e.g. Saleen, Monivea, Loggan Bridge.
    Criteria 10.3 & 10.4
    1. Coillte’s certificate requires that >10% of plantations consist of broadleaves [2]. In 2005, 4.6% of Coillte’s estate consisted of broadleaves [3]. The following table shows the amount of afforestation and reforestation since 2002, as well as the amount of broadleaves planted [3, 4]:
    Afforestation/Reforestation (ha)
    Broadleaves Planted (ha)
    % Broadleaves
    Coillte’s current ratio of broadleaves fails to meet the required 10%, and their planting ratios ensure that this target will never be met. I.e., for the 10% target to be met, they need their afforestation and reforestation ratio to be above 10% broadleaves. In the Woodmark Forest Certification Public Report of Coillte Teoranta 2006, it is stated that Coillte ‘aims’ to have 10% broadleaves, whereas the percentages above show that this cannot be the case under the current planting ratios.
    Criteria 10.5
    1. There is no evidence to suggest that Coillte is conserving any substantial proportion of its land for the restoration of natural forest cover. Less than 6% of Coillte’s forests are native, and much less than this is dedicated to natural forest regeneration/conservation/protection [3].
    Criteria 10.8
    1. While Coillte have essentially stopped afforestation, their reforestation activities in unsuitable areas has led to consternation, such as in the Lough Corrib area [1]. Coillte’s planting of Sitka Spruce and other exotic species requires the use of chemical fertilizers in many areas [3]. Chemical fertilizers are only necessary on sites where the species selected is not suitably adapted for the site.
    1. Forestry In Ireland: A Citizen’s Perspective: Section 5.9: Lough Corrib, Woodland League 2. WM Generic Standard adapted for use in Ireland, P&C 10.4, Indicator 4 3. Coillte Social and Environmental Report 2005 4. Dáil Debate, March 01 ‘06, Questions 168 and 169 (Ciaran Cuffe)

  • Ioan Évangéliste

    So is this estate for sale again or not? We see this guy listed it again at €8.000.000
    What has he done to it since owning it & that makes it worth €7 million more in two years?

  • George Willoughby

    I am not aware of any improvements made to the estate. Some of the woodland may have been sold off.

  • Catherine Murray

    This breaks my heart. Can’t anbody do anything about this? Is there any way a petition could be started by the locals to bring it to the attention of the government? I grew up beside the forest as our land bordered Kilcooley wall. Growing up we had the freedom of the woods and the house was beautiful. The boat house and the lake were in impeccable condition, and the forest was full. I visited home recently and was shocked and saddened to see the derelict state of the house and the huge chunks of forestry that have been cut away.

  • George Willoughby

    I regret to say Catherine that our government is well aware of this matter. It was our Labour / Fine Gael government who sold off the Coillte lease here at a ‘Vulture Fund’ price, latter whose core purpose was supposedly to enrich lives both locally, nationally and globally, through the innovative and sustainable management of natural resources. Interesting to note that the “People Before Profit Party” would claim that they successfully stopped the sale of Coillte nationally. This lease however would appear to have gone undetected.

  • Cathy

    (1) Have there been any recent developments on this? (2) Is the Church on the long Avenue up to the house still in operation?
    (3) Some of the articles may reference to ruins being under the control of the OPW – are these ruins accessible to the public?
    Thanks. Hoping to visit when next around.

  • George Willoughby

    (1) No.
    (2) Yes. Kilcooly Church (Denomination C of I).
    (3) Yes.

  • Cathy

    Thanks George. Much appreciated.
    There doesn’t seem to be much about it on the tourist sites.

  • Brendan Maher

    Does anyone know if this house has been sold and the identity of the owner?
    Thanks, Brendan


    Looks a fab place to visit. Does anyone know if you can fish the lake or indeed is there any public access at all?

  • George Willoughby

    We understand that the area is strictly private.

  • Mred

    N-AMAteur mistake: Kilcooley Abbey

    If Kilcooley Abbey sale had been more transparent it might have fetched more money for the state

    by Frank Connolly 22 August, 2017, 1:42 pm 0 Comments
    One of the more intriguing stories surrounding the property disposals of NAMA concerns the sale of the historic Kilcooley Abbey Estate in Gortnahoe, County Tipperary.

    In late 2013, the estate comprising an 18th century mansion, 220 acres of farmland, five staff houses, courtyard buildings, a lake, boathouse and a 12th century Cistercian abbey and chapel was sold for a reported €2.1m to Newry businessman, Tom O’Gorman. He also purchased the freehold on 950 acres of adjoining woodland which had been leased by Coillte for many years for what is said to be a sum of €1.5m.

    The figures are unclear because neither the estate agents, Colliers, which handled the sale nor Bannons the receiver acting for NAMA which offloaded the property can confirm how much actually changed hands in the transaction. What makes the Kilcooley Abbey so interesting is the manner in which the sale was organised and how O’Gorman ended up as the successful bidder for the property.

    Originally owned by the Ponsonby family, the Kilcooley Abbey estate was purchased in 2008 by John McCann, a property developer from Crossmaglen and principal of the Castleway Group, who paid some €6-€8m for the house and lands, not including the forestry. McCann’s loans went into NAMA soon after, and he was chased all the way to the US for the €114m debt.

    McCann had acquired properties and built developments, north and south, during the boom years and also invested in the US including in an airport business park in Philadelphia, before his business collapsed in the wake of the crash.

    In 2011, the Kilcooley Abbey estate was put up for sale through Colliers and attracted interest from various parties, including Mary and Jim Redmond, an Irish couple living in London.

    They visited the property in 2012 and made an initial offer of €1.8m but were informed soon afterwards it was going to be sold to a higher bidder. A year later they discovered that the estate was up for sale again and they expressed their interest in spending up to €2.1m.

    By this time the property was in the hands of Bannon, who were appointed as receivers by NAMA over McCann’s assets. On 22 August, 2013, Marcus Magnier of Colliers informed the Redmonds that their offer had been rejected by the receiver who had signed a contract with another party at “an acceptable level”.

    Jim Redmond wrote to NAMA to complain about the sales process, which he claimed was neither open nor transparent. He also contacted the office of finance minister, Michael Noonan, to complain about what they considered was unfair treatment by NAMA and its agents.

    They received a letter from NAMA spokesperson, Martin Whelan, to say that the agency was advised by Bannons that due process was adhered to throughout the sale. It soon emerged that O’Gorman had purchased the estate and had also bought out the freehold on the forestry from Coillte.

    Efforts by the Redmonds to find out how much was paid, and why the fact that the Coillte-leased lands were also potentially available was not disclosed during their discussions with Colliers and Bannons, were unsuccessful. A complaint to NAMA, questions raised in the Dáil on their behalf and attempts to acquire information under the Aarhus convention on environmental information, proved fruitless.

    The only information about the purchase came through the property pages of various media which confirmed that O’Gorman, an oil and gas entrepreneur, had bought the estate and forest.

    O’Gorman was also the successful bidder for the 160-acre Blarney Golf Resort and hotel near Cork city in early 2014 which he boasted he had purchased ‘sight unseen’ for a reported €2.5m in a sale also handled by Colliers. He said he intended to invest a further €500,000 upgrading the leisure and hotel complex.

    Meanwhile, NAMA was chasing McCann for the debts he incurred and it was suggested that he had relocated from the US to Switzerland. The agency failed in a recent attempt in the US courts to get control of his assets including the proceeds of the sale of the airport business park.

    In 2015, it was reported that O’Gorman was hoping to sell Kilcooley for more than twice what he reportedly paid for it but up to early this year the property was registered at the address of his company in Dundalk.

    He has since erected gates and fencing to prevent local people from straying across his lands along traditional walking routes as the value of the property continues to soar. Once again, a NAMA sale has enriched those with pockets deep enough to invest and impatient enough to sell it on, before NAMA’s long work is done.

    The episode tends to suggest those who have not asked the right questions have had less chance of purchasing NAMA properties.

    By Frank Connolly

  • George Willoughby

    Hi Mred,
    The transaction has always interested me; not so much because of the secrecy, but because the Government of the day had given a promise to the people of Ireland not to sell off Coillte leased investments.
    Several politicians contacted me when I first wrote about the transaction, but none took action.

  • Declan

    Plenty signs up now. Private Grounds. Trespassers Prosecuted. CCTV In Operation etc. etc.
    Signed Kilcooley Estate, (whoever that may be). Seems like the old house and lake woods etc. are now off limits.
    You can of course still access Old Cistercian Abbey and Church on grounds. Pity.

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